A historic photograph showing expedition supplies on the beach at Fort Conger.

Achieving Your Own Furthest North Record

Your mission is to recreate the epic northward sledging journey undertaken by Lieutenant James Booth Lockwood, Sergeant David Brainard, and Frederick Christensen. Doing so will require that you make informed decisions about how much food and equipment to take, paying careful attention to how much you need versus how much you can realistically haul. As imperial units (e.g., lbs and miles) were used by the expeditions of Fort Conger, we will be using them in our simulated sledging trip.

Greely took great pains to plan the various sledging expeditions he dispatched from Fort Conger. He felt that the sledges used by the British Arctic Expedition had been too heavily laden with food and equipment, resulting in the men’s exhaustion, which may have further contributed to the onset of scurvy. But how much is too much? Greely’s problem was this: his sleds contained items of both constant and variable weight.

  1. Constant Weights are the weights associated with non-consumable items taken on a sledging expedition. These items included: sleeping bags, cook lamps, snow shoes, plates, cups, spoons, cooking stove, ammunition, pistol, storage bags, and blankets. Additional equipment for scientific activities included a sextant, sounding line, and record cases

  2. Variable Weights are weights associated with consumable items taken on a sledging expedition. These include food, fuel, and medicines. The foods taken by Greely’s men on these expeditions differed dramatically from the protein power bars and dehydrated meals we often use when hiking or skiing outdoors. Their food consisted of things like: meat: pemmican laced with lime juice (for the prevention of scurvy), muskox meat, as well as canned sausage and beef. Vegetables: beans (Boston baked) and potatoes formed the vegetable portion of their diet. Bread: hard bread was an important dietary item because it was a great source of carbohydrates, as were chocolate, sugar, tea, and milk.

Alcohol was also taken on sledging expeditions, primarily for medicinal uses as well as for powering cooking stoves. Greely initially expected that the overall weights of his sledges would decrease as food items were consumed, but the accumulation of frost and frozen moisture on sleeping bags, clothing and tents while on the trail provided additional weight that more than made up the difference.


Click on the Options button and select Play! You will see a 19th century map showing the “farthest north” route taken by Lockwood and his colleagues are a series of sledging rations. Below the map are a series of sledging rations. Clicking on a ration reveals a drop down menu containing different portions. Select what you think are appropriate quantities of each ration for your sledging expedition. Click the Go button to see how far your choices take you. Correct your choices by re-selecting amounts for sledging rations with red x’s until you achieve your farthest north record!